Israelis are generous and compassionate people. Sometimes, unfortunately, that can make them vulnerable to exploitation by people whose agendas are not in Israel’s best interest. Case in point: the program at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Maryland, on Wednesday, March 14, featuring an Israeli rabbi and a Palestinian Arab activist.
According to Kol HaBirah’s report (“‘Other to Brother’ Event Urges Dialogue Between Israelis and Palestinians,” March 25, 2018), Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger described how he used to pay no attention to the Palestinians who live near him (he resides in Gush Etzion), but his conversations with Shadi Abu Awwad have changed his perspective.
Rabbi Schlesinger told the Potomac audience that thanks to Awwad, he now tries “to understand Palestinians’ pain and fear under what they see as illicit Israeli occupation.”
There’s just one problem: Awwad does not live under occupation.
Awwad is 27 years old, and is a resident of the town of Beit Ummar, south of Hebron. Beit Ummar has been occupied by the Palestinian Authority (PA), not Israel, for the past 23 years.
When Yitzhak Rabin was elected prime minister in 1992, he faced a dilemma. On the one hand, he recognized that establishing a Palestinian state in Judea-Samaria-Gaza would pose a grave threat to Israel’s existence. Israel would be just nine miles wide in its middle, living next to a state run by terrorists and dictators.
But on the other hand, Rabin didn’t want Israel to continue ruling over the Palestinian Arabs who reside in those territories. So, he and his aides devised the Oslo accords, which ended Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians and gave them something close to statehood, but without endangering Israel.
In 1995, Rabin withdrew from the cities in Judea-Samaria where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside, including Shami Abu Awwad’s town of Beit Ummar. Ariel Sharon later withdrew from all of Gaza. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinians came to an end. The only “occupation” of the Palestinians currently in force is the 23-year occupation by the PA, and the occupation of Gaza by Hamas, which is now entering its 11th year.
The Palestinians’ schools are run by Palestinian principals and teachers. The courts have Palestinian judges. The streets are policed by the Palestinian police and security forces. When elections are held, the candidates and the voters are all Palestinians. Pretty much the only thing the PA can’t do is import tanks, planes, Iranian “volunteers,” or North Korean missiles.
The only time Israeli troops enter Palestinian areas is when they are chasing terrorists. Going into some Palestinian town for an hour or two to catch a bomb-thrower or a sniper hardly constitutes an “occupation” of the Palestinians.
The current situation in the territories is not a perfect solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But we live in an imperfect world. Thanks to Rabin, today’s status quo ensures Israel’s Jewish majority, retains Israel’s defensible borders, and guarantees all faiths free access to their religious sites. It also allows nearly all of the Palestinians, including Awwad, to live under their own government. The Israeli Army is not patrolling the Palestinians’ cities. They live in an entity that is close to statehood in every respect, except the few aspects that would most endanger Israel’s existence.
Let’s honor Rabin’s memory and acknowledge the risks he took. Let’s stop pretending that the Palestinians are living under “occupation.” Let’s not fall victim to the lies of Palestinian propagandists.
- Stephen M. Flatow, Vice President of the Religious Zionists of America
(Stephen M. Flatow is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He subsequently initiated a series of lawsuits against the Islamic Republic of Iran and several international banks who processed transactions on Iran’s behalf which were linked to terrorist activities.)